Thousands of sinkholes the size of basketball courts are ruining The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is famous for its high salt content, and because salt water is denser than fresh water, it’s easier for us to stay afloat in the Dead Sea than in an average swimming pool. That’s why millions of tourists flock to its waters annually for the unique experience of feeling like they’re floating weightlessly.

However, the Dead Sea is in danger of disappearing due to lack of water coming in from its main source: the Jordan River. That, combined with the mineral mining that’s taking place in the south portion of the Sea has created a detrimental situation.

Sinkholes, some the size of a basketball court, are appearing around the now receding water, threatening visitors’ safety and creating a ghastly landscape. Take a look at the almost unrecognizable recent images of the Dead Sea.

, and since its surface is 1,407 feet below sea level,

The Dead Sea is receding by about 3 feet (1 meter) per year.

Dangerous sinkholes form when the Dead Sea's salty water recedes. From there, fresh groundwater bubbles up, dissolving layers of salt in the land, which creates large underground cavities.

Sinkholes can open up without warning, making the shores especially dangerous.

The Dead Sea and Arava Research Center is looking into ways to detect where and when sinkholes might happen, but they have reported that it's a 'complicated' process.

Sinkholes have been found around the Dead Sea since the 1970s, but have become a more rampant problem in recent years.

Reportedly over 4,000 sinkholes are pock marking the Dead Sea this year, which is four times more than 10 years ago when there were only 1,000. Mostly the Sea's western shores are affected, along with the once flourishing foliage.

The holes reach up to 82 feet deep, and 131 feet in diameter. That's about as large as the length of an NBA basketball court and deep enough to swallow an average, eight-story building.

What's worse, is when two sinkholes form near one another and grow to become a single giant hole.

This sign at an abandoned holiday resort on the west shore of the Dead Sea that borders Israel warns visitors of the dangerous sinkholes.

The Jordan River used to provide up to 450 billion gallons of water to the Dead Sea, however, today it only provides 20% of that.

Research has found that sinkholes are more likely to happen along seismic fault lines in the Jordan Rift Valley, which is an elongated depression located along the entire length of the Jordan River. Along these fault lines, dissolved salts are less stable and more susceptible to the fresh groundwater.

Lower water levels are shown in this canal in Israel, leading into the Dead Sea.

Because of the receding water and the dangers sinkholes pose, tourism is on a decline. Once active pit stops, such as this one, are completely abandoned.

In efforts to save the Dead Sea, the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conduit has been proposed by authorities. This proposal, approved in March of 2015, brings salt water to the Dead Sea and generates electricity to supply its own energy. Here, a sign located near an abandoned resort in Israel indicates the land is at an elevation of 404 meters (1,325 feet).

This Conduit, along with contractors being cautious of where they build future roads, buildings, and other infrastructures, will hopefully keep tourists and locals safe from the sinkholes, and there won't need to be as many warning signs such as the one pictured here.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.